Vermigli Contra Pighius’s Doctrine of Pure Nature

APHenri de Lubac is known for his work exposing the doctrine held by many 16th century Catholic theologians that man was created in a state of pure nature. The more extreme position stated that Adam was created upright with superadded grace and that when he fell he received his old nature back. Thus, any defect in nature was there before grace was added and returned after it was removed. Albert Pighius, the 16th century Dutch Roman Catholic theologian held to this position and was heavily criticized by Peter Martyr Vermigli, who affirms the essence of the latter’s opinion here:

Adam was so created of God, that he was capable of that supernatural felicitie; who nevertheles setting light by the commandments of God, was despoiled of all those supernaturall gifts, and was left to the first state of his owne nature.  And in the same state we also are procreated, and so for his sinne are we damned, doo die, and are banished out of the kindgome of heaven, suffering manie discommodities, which are derived from the originals of our nature.  Wherefore we may complaine of our first parents, but not of God; for he was most liberall unto him:  and especiallie, seeing he calleth us againe unto himselfe (which is the highest felicitie) by his onelie sonne, and him would have to suffer death for our salvation. (Common Places, II.I.5.)

Vermigli continues, proclaiming his disagreement with this position:

But let not Pighius obiect against me, that these things come of the originals of nature; for these originals be not of nature that is perfect, but of nature corrupt and depraved.  Neither ought he in this matter to bring a similitude of brute beasts; for man is created to be farre more excellent than brute beasts, and to be the ruler over them.  Indeed man had in himselfe originals, whereby he might desire things pleasant and commodious but not against reason and the word of God:  for, to have such forceable and violent affects, is not the propertie of men, but of beasts.  Over this, seeing our soule was immortall, and given from God, it requireth a bodie meet for the same; namelie, such as might be preserved for ever, least the soule should at anie time be constreined to be without the same.  So as we must not flie to the first grounds of nature; for it was not so ordeined at the first, as we now have it. (Ibid., II.I.6.)

Vermigli responds to the claims of Pighius that man’s defects are from the “originals of nature” that the defects that we experience now are from the corruption of sin. Man was created with “beastly” desires but in Adam’s original state these passions were not against reason or God’s word.  If man were created with these defects it would be difficult to distinguish his substantial nature from that of irrational animals. Vermigli concludes his argument, stating that Pighius’s position leaves God culpable for creating man with wicked passions.

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